It’s been decided that Hazel English is good. This is a fortunate fact in some rights, since she indeed is good.
Still, the whole thing is a bit irksome to me, in some regards. For instance: throughout the whole blurb and interview on blog.urbanoutfitters.com, a blurb which is entitled “About a Band,” at no point are we pesky, annoying readers privy to the top-secret information as to whether this is actually indeed a BAND, or just a girl making music by herself. The last time I looked her up on facebook, I discovered that there are indeed people NAMED Hazel English, so either one would seem to be a possibility. Still, UO, I’d like to respectfully assert that your coverage of this artist was slightly, uh, slight.
Wikipedia has been equally unhelpful: I still have no idea whether this girl plays the guitar even, let alone makes her own beats/hires a drummer/summons them into existence metaphysically with her transcendently homey vibes… it all remains mystical. He**, maybe this is a good thing. It’s like that Van Morrison song.
Is Hazel English like Van Morrison? Well, she’s an English speaking person from another country (hailing from Sydney, Australia, settling now on San Francisco, not a whole lot unlike our friends Liars, though very musically unlike). Well, yeah. The songs are delicate and seem to fall apart in your hands. Within this clearly pop star-oriented time of music in which we live, English hones this aspect of her m.o. with a cool, trippy vocal effect, sounding like a canary on moon-like pop songs. Again, I can’t emphasize enough: the music is DELICATE and this is a good thing: harkening vaguely to twee pop but wielding an auspicious jazz influence. This woman is worldly both physically and culturally.
I’d been listening to this album (two conjoined EP’s, same thing) straight through and I’d lost track of the song titles, so I was astonished that when during this sort of Pains of Being Pure at Heart type number with the melodic sense of Passion Pit, the name of the song was “Love is Dead.” Ah, all artists should hurt us a little bit, and I don’t imagine that the juxtaposition of such tender beauty and unflinching doom was an easy thing to assemble and compile. I guess it sort of assuages her of the duties of actually playing all the instruments, which the picky rock purists among us might be tempted to allot to her.
Along these lines: to be honest, the drum machine is a slight problem on this album, and indeed, it’s not folk — it’s not rock — it’s not rockabilly. This is a detriment thereto. This is music very much endorsing the new “cute” camp of twee pop revival assimilative very much to Best Coast et. al., although to English’s credit she selects Real Estate’s Atlas (rawk) as her primary influence. This is evident right down to the gentle liquefying of the slow, deliberate and ascensional guitar riffs. “More Like You” retains a refreshing tension by perpetuating jazz’s involvement in this project (again, the INFLUENCE, with dissonant chords and scant climax, not actually jazz’s style — no trumpets or saxes or anything).
“Never Going Home” sounds a little disjointed, too fresh, too composed and brisk to follow as it does such a poignant statement as “More Like You.” Ah, that’s because this is part of the second EP, which is crammed on to this same vinyl, apparently! Touchee, English. Apropos of this: this is important, in a way, in so far as it’s not wholly unfathomable that English will one day flourish into a musical entity of some significance and stature, particularly along the lines of the trends of this issuing, presumably, one seven-inch on a very minor label, followed by a full LP composed of two EP’s, on the venerable but still independent Polyvinyl Records (a Champaign, Illinois imprint which interestingly houses another Bay Area act as well, The Dodos). In a way, matters have the potential of boiling down to a specific artistic question: should these bands or soloists try to modify things so that the two-EP set fits well as a whole? Personally, I like these disjointed aspects: it reminds me of ancient times when the Greeks, or whoever, used to stage several relatively brief works of drama on the same night and the same site, instead of one long, cumbersome one. This can of course mean getting more than one creative mind involved, although in this case this project is entirely (really, entirely) English’s, just with two different time frames as its bases. And then, of course, we get could get into that existential argument of whether an individual is even still the same person upon ensuing days, weeks, months, years. As a preternatural creative writer, English certainly seems the polymorphic, which makes it cool that her music is so direct, delicate and unwilling to lunge toward anything it can’t naturally embody.